Unmet need for social care among older people

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Understanding the nature and extent of unmet need for social care among older people is a critical policy priority in the United Kingdom and beyond, as national governments juggle the provision of adequate social care for a growing older population with competing funding priorities. Several factors can heighten the experience of unmet need among older people, for instance their family environment, and their health and socio-economic status. This paper contributes empirical evidence on the patterns of unmet need for social care among older people in England today, focusing on the individual characteristics associated with experiencing unmet need in relation to mobility tasks, activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The results show that about 55 per cent of older individuals with an ADL difficulty had unmet need, compared to 24 per cent of those with an IADL difficulty and 80 per cent of those with a mobility difficulty. Characteristics reflecting greater vulnerability were more strongly associated with the risk of experiencing unmet need for ADLs, and such vulnerability was greater for particular ADLs (e.g. bathing), and for a higher number of ADLs. The findings reaffirm the complexity of conceptualising and empirically investigating unmet need in later life, and add to our understanding of the challenges of providing adequate and appropriate social care to older people.




Vlachantoni, A. (2019). Unmet need for social care among older people. Ageing and Society, 39(4), 657–684. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X17001118

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